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With No UFC Offer on Table, Ricco Rodriguez Chasing 50 Wins

The list of former UFC heavyweight champions who are actively fighting outside of the UFC is minimal, and of those on the list, few have the recent credentials of outsider Ricco Rodriguez, currently riding a 10-match winning streak.

But don't expect him in the immediate future inside the UFC Octagon, even if he records another win this Saturday at BAMMA 5.

"The reality is that the opportunity is not there at the present time," Rodriguez said in an exclusive interview with "That's just the reality of it. There's no reason to beat that subject, and the truth of the matter is that I'm sure the fans would love to see me back in the UFC. It's just right now the opportunity doesn't strike itself."

Often times fighters released by the UFC due to losses are eventually invited back once they compile wins on the regional level. Or if the fighter is on poor terms with the UFC, there are more than a handful of instances where the UFC, or specifically, president Dana White, has shown time can mend relationships.

For nearly eight years, Rodriguez has been absent from a UFC-promoted card. In that time he has fought on 34 cards, ranging from local bouts in America to fights in Russia and Israel. Rodriguez's next fight, promoted by a group called BAMMA (British Association of Mixed Martial Arts), takes him to Manchester, England.

Before he was offered the fight with BAMMA, Rodriguez had already been in the England, training at the Wolfslair Academy to help UFC middleweight Michael Bisping prepare for his upcoming fight at UFC 127. It was another opportunity for Rodriguez, self-described as possessing a Master's degree in fighting, to cultivate his martial arts passion.

"Right now I love traveling the world and being experienced in different cultures," Rodriguez said. "Just learning life in different ways. I've learned a lot from the guys out here. The camaraderie among the guys at at the Wolfslair is amazing. I've never seen anything like it. They joke, they laugh, they punch each other in the face. They're knock-around guys. They're just cool guys."

Excluding his recent work training in England, Rodriguez, who currently resides in Louisiana, has spent most of the past year training at the L.A. Boxing gym in Baton Rouge. Among his training partners in the area are Mark Stars, Dustin Johnson and Darren De Salvo. He also travels to train with his past Team Punishment brethen, Saul Soliz in Texas and Tito Ortiz in Huntington Beach, Calif.

At BAMMA 5, Rodriguez is set to meet a fellow former UFC fighter, The Ultimate Fighter alum James McSweeney. Though McSweeny holds a 4-6 record, and is the heavy underdog, Rodriguez is refusing to take his opponent lightly.

"He's very explosive, he's very fast," Rodriguez said. "He believes his own hype so at the end of the day he has the capability to make havoc. I just feel that my wrestling and my experience is going to play a great factor. I'm taking him very seriously. It's just that I feel that I'm the better athlete and better fighter at this time."

Weighty Matters

Much has been made about Rodriguez's struggles to keep his weight in line. During a tumultuous period of his life in 2006, later documented on VH1's Celebrity Rehab in 2008, Rodriguez found himself competing over 300 pounds. However, over the past two years he has dedicated himself to overcoming his past troubles, working his way towards fighting at 205 pounds as a light heavyweight.

Rodriguez has yet to make 205. He's only agreed to it once and an injury limited his ability to train appropriately. Still, he admits better nutrition is still a must.

"I winded up catching staph on his knee, so I wasn't able to do the cardio and training, but you know I should have cleaned up my diet a little bit better. It's a learning process. I used to weigh 330 pounds, 150 kilos, now I'm walking around at 104 kilos. Massive cut."

The McSweeney fight will be contested at a catchweight of 215 pounds. For better or worse, Rodriguez prefers to fight at a catchweight of around 215 pounds until he feels he's being compensated worth his while to make the full drop to 205.

Rodriguez is open to competing in heavyweight only if the money is right and only if the heavyweight is on the smaller end of the division. These days the dominant heavyweights have been around 240 all the way to the maximum limit of 265.

"These guys are coming from 280, cutting to 265. A lot of people don't understand that I'm a smaller heavyweight now," he said. "I'm walking around at like 220. If I were to fight Fedor, I would take that fight right now just where I'm walking around at cause he's a smaller heavyweight.

"I fought Antonio Silva (who cuts to make 265) already, I did quite well with that fight. I would fight at heavyweight, I just won't fight mammoth of a men," said Rodriguez with a laugh.

Finishing Strong

At the pace he's been fighting the past three years, Rodriguez, who currently holds a record of 45-11, should no doubt fulfill one of his immediate goals.

"My goal right now is to get 50 victories. I think 50 victories in any man's profession is a phenomenal accomplishment," he said. "I think it's got a nice little ring to it."

The amount of ring experience and training takes a toll on the body and Rodriguez is approaching the age where heavyweights tend to see a sharp decline. Rodriguez turns 34 in August.

"It makes me want to complete my goals a little bit sooner," Rodriguez said. "But look at all the athletes like Randy Couture. I think at 33, my skill level is at a higher level now. I'm mature and I just have a lot of experience."

Rodriguez's next goal would to be in the top 10 or top 20 ranks by fighting in the UFC or other promotions providing him with the competition to do so. Rodriguez hopes to reach a deal to compete on a 205-pound tournament at Bellator, which airs on MTV2.

Interestingly, Rodriguez says he was in negotiations to compete in the ongoing Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. Not only would it have been an opportunity for Rodriguez to reach top 10 status it would have also been Rodriguez's first fight on a major show in two years.

However, the deal fell through, as at the end of the day, Rodriguez insists on being paid what he feels he deserves.

"If you sell yourself for a dollar, you're only worth a dollar. You know what I mean?" Rodriguez said. "There's a lot of things that people don't see in life whether they want to face the reality is that there's negotiations and there's also politics and there are also certain egos that get in the way or for that matter. It's business, man."

In 2008, Rodriguez was believed to have money issues when an eBay listing under him surfaced stating that he was selling his UFC 39 championship belt to raise money for a gym he wanted to open. Rodriguez denies this.

"To be honest that was an accident that came about and somebody was like pretty much playing around with it, took a picture, put it up on eBay, thought it was a joke and It just kind of stuck."

It was all too conceivable considering Rodriguez's past and disconnect with the UFC. Not the case, he says. Because although he's not fighting for the UFC like he wants, he's proud of the achievement of having held the UFC heavyweight belt, only comparable to his three children.

"That belt is tucked far far way," Rodriguez said. "She's very blessed. That's my little pride and joy. She stays in a nice little guarded area. That thing means a lot to me. And not everyone can say they've had one of those. You might even say you have a Super Bowl ring, but you can't say you have the UFC heavyweight title."

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